An argument for the rationality of religious belief
About the assignment
There are no right/wrong answers, we are being marked on how we present our argument
Who is Pascal?
French thinker, 1623-1662,
Inventor of probability calculus
Laid foundations of infinitesimal calculus
Built the first calculating machine
Experiments in physics, especially fluid dynamics
Religious thinker and writer (Jansenist-moral reformist movement under Roman Catholic nation)
"The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me"
"Man is but a reed, the weakest thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed."
Pascal thought the arguments for the existence of God were not compelling
And also that the arguments against the existence of God were not compelling
He thought we were caught in inescapable ignorance about whether God exists or not
1. Pascal's fundamental vision
So, he lowered the bar: he proposed that if we can't settle the truth of the matter about the
existence of God, we should ask a different question:
o Given that the evidence does not compel us one way or another, is it reasonable to believe
o Is it more rational to believe in God (and behave accordingly) or not to believe in God (and
What's the best bet? We have to bet because we don't know the truth
2. Constructing the Wager
Where G stands for the proposition that God exists, etc.
G may be true or it may be false
And I may believe G or not believe G
Cross-dividing these two pairs of alternatives we get four possible combinations:
I believe G G is true
I believe G G is false
I don't believe G G is true
I don't believe G G is false
Combinations and Outcomes
I believe G